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Kelly lifts No. 3 Duke past No. 5 Miami 79-76

Sunday - 3/3/2013, 4:00pm  ET

Miami's Kenny Kadji (35) dunks over Duke defender Ryan Kelly during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

AARON BEARD
AP Basketball Writer

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Ryan Kelly had waited two months for the chance to help his Duke teammates reclaim the form that made them the nation's top-ranked team.

He returned with a stunning performance that shook up No. 5 Miami and left his own Hall of Fame coach struggling for the right words.

The senior scored a career-high 36 points in his return from a foot injury that had sidelined him since January, helping the third-ranked Blue Devils beat the Hurricanes 79-76 on Saturday night in a matchup of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top teams.

"I guess I was ready for it," Kelly said. "That's all I can say."

Kelly knocked down 10 of 14 shots -- including 7 of 9 3-pointers-- for the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-4 ACC), who avenged a blowout road loss in January by grinding out a tough win in Cameron Indoor Stadium. He also went 9-for-12 from the foul line and pulled down seven rebounds in 32 minutes.

It left Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joking to reporters that he was interested to read how they'd describe Kelly's big night.

"I mean, me saying 'spectacular' or whatever doesn't do his performance justice," Krzyzewski said. "One for the ages. Probably as good a performance as any player has had -- a Duke player has had -- in Cameron."

Kelly's performance was the highlight of a game that certainly lived up to the teams' lofty rankings and their status as the league's best. Miami led by seven in the first half and by two at the break, while Duke never led by more than five until the final 3 minutes.

Quinn Cook added 15 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Duke a 10-point lead with 1:55 left.

But the Hurricanes (23-5, 14-2) made a frantic rally and missed two 3s in the final seconds to tie it. Shane Larkin came up short on the first over Kelly. Durand Scott ran down the rebound and fired a pass to the left corner to Rion Brown, whose final 3 clanged off the rim as the horn sounded.

Kelly's season-high was 22 points and his career-best was 23 points before Saturday. He had missed 13 straight games with the right foot injury, though he had been gradually increasing his work in practice in recent days before going right back in the starting lineup Saturday.

"I just knew I was going to play my hardest," Kelly said. "Honestly, though, more than anything it was just going to be whether I could hold up with my breathing. I haven't played any games in a long time, and being in a game is a lot different from being in practice or anything you can do. But I think I held up all right."

He missed a 3 on Duke's first possession, but knocked one down 2
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